Saturday, January 11, 2014

SOUTH AFRICA: Corruption investigation in mass-circumcision contract

City Press (South Africa)
January 7, 2014

Mpumalanga investigates multimillion-rand circumcision contract

The Mpumalanga health department is investigating a multimillion-rand contract awarded to a company as part of the province’s Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision programme.

This follows an investigation by Corruption Watch that found that Mkhago Health Care Services was given a one-year contract to conduct 260 000 circumcisions at a cost of R182 million [$US16.9 million], R700 [$US65] a person, a Sapa correspondent reported. The contract was not put out to tender.

[A corresponded calculates that it would take more than three operating theatres each in more than twenty hospitals, employing more than at least 60-90 urologists, anaesthetists and 120 theatre nurses, working full time, to complete the contract in the specified time.]

“We have joined forces with the integrity management unit in the office of the premier to strengthen and fast-track the investigation,” provincial health spokesman Ronnie Masilela said.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi instructed the provincial health department to inform him how the contract was awarded.

Masilela said the department had promised to conclude its investigation into the matter by November 30 last year.

“The matter has since proven to be a little complex and required an extension of time to continue with other parts of the investigation.

“It is against this background that we request to comment no further on this very matter until the investigations are concluded, which we believe will be soon,” Masilela said.

He said the contract remained suspended, and stressed that the investigation did not affect the province’s circumcision programme.

The department had five other service providers conducting circumcisions, all of which were nongovernmental organisations that had been sponsored to carry out the procedures.

Mkhago Health Care Services is a private company belonging to Dr Ebby Mkhabela.

The department previously defended the Mkhago circumcision contract, saying it was based on Mkhabela’s experience and qualifications.

However, the department is facing a R10.7 million lawsuit relating to a circumcision that went wrong at Barberton Hospital in 2008. Mkhabela was the lead doctor during the circumcision procedure on a young boy, who is now nine.

The boy lost the tip of his penis in the operation. The matter is still in court.

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